Don Owen, Pioneering Canadian Director, Dies at 84

Don_Owen_on_Set The Ernie Game - H 2016
Courtesy of National Film Board of Canada & Canadian Broadcast Corporation

Don_Owen_on_Set The Ernie Game - H 2016

Owen directed the 1964 youth rebellion classic 'Nobody Waved Good-bye' and a year later the doc 'Ladies and Gentleman ... Mr. Leonard Cohen.'

Don Owen, a pioneering Canadian director who began as a feature filmmaker at the National Film Board of Canada, has died. He was 84.

Owen died Feb. 21 in Toronto, the NFB announced Wednesday. "I was deeply saddened to learn of his passing, but immensely grateful for Don’s rich artistic legacy, which will live on in trailblazing works of Canadian cinema," Claude Joli-Coeur, government film commissioner and NFB chair, said in a statement.

Born on Sept. 19, 1931, in Toronto, Owen directed groundbreaking Canadian films capturing 1960s youth rebellion like Nobody Waved Good-bye (1964), which starred Peter Kastner and Julie Biggs, and The Ernie Game (1967). Nobody Waved Good-bye, which began as a short documentary on probation officers for the NFB before becoming a dramatic feature, received the Robert J. Flaherty Award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

The movie's sequel, Unfinished Business, shot 20 years later, starred Alexis Kanner and Jackie Burroughs. Owen's NFB documentaries, which often depicted the role of the artist in society, included 1965's Ladies and Gentlemen ... Mr. Leonard Cohen, which introduced the legendary troubadour to international audiences, and Toronto Jazz (1963), about the city's music scene.

Owen first joined the NFB in 1960 as a part of a team of cinematographers working on the cinema direct classics La lutte (1961) and À Saint-Henri le cinq septembre (1962). He was the subject of a retrospective at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival.